Government has agreed to pay K29 million in out-of-court settlements with families of the 21 people who were killed by police during the July 20 2011 anti-government demonstrations.
While welcoming the development, one human rights activist who was among organisers of the demonstrations, has said government needs to complement the settlement with a public apology.
Rafiq Hajat, executive director of Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI), said much as it was a kind gesture for government to resolve the matters out of court, the amounts given are not enough and it was long overdue.
Hajat said this was a situation where lives were lost, and some of the victims, whom he called martyrs, were family breadwinners.
He said the money compensation aside, the State must also come out in the open and issue a public apology, assuring Malawians that such an incident would not occur again.
Said Hajat: “These people were not armed and were simply expressing their opinion. Money cannot buy life and their families are suffering. A public apology would do to close this dark chapter.”
In the worst police shooting incidences Malawi ever recorded, 21 unarmed Malawians who staged street demonstrations against poor governance and economic hardship during Bingu wa Mutharika’s reign, were gunned down in the county’s cities of Mzuzu, Lilongwe and Blantyre.
Some of the relations to the victims sued government separately for loss of life, but Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale, placed an advertisement in the local media on February 24 this year inviting the claimants who had their matters in courts for the out-of-court settlement.
In an interview on Friday, the AG said his office, approached by lawyers representing the claimants, received 15 to 20 claims and they agreed on payments to be made, which are amounting to K29 million—an average of K1 450 000 per life lost.
In the advertisement, the AG informed the citizens that his office had received Executive authority to settle, through payment of monetary compensations, all claims arising from death or personal injuries lodged with it following the July 20 2011 riots.
He noted that during the riots, lethal force was regrettably used.
“The claims being settled are those that were lodged through the courts. The general public is, therefore, notified that if there are any claims already lodged with the courts over which settlement negotiations have not yet taken place, they must through their lawyers, contact my office in writing…” reads the statement in part.
The AG emphasised that the invitation was only restricted to personal injuries and wrongful death claims lodged with the courts.
The July 20 2011 demonstrations were organised by civil society organisations to protest poor governance, economic and human rights concerns, but demonstrations turned violent amid massive looting of shops and running battles between heavily armed police and civilians, leading to the deaths. n